It was recently in the news that Kirk Kerkorian passed away. The name may or may not ring a bell for people. He was a very successful businessman and a prominent donator to charities, especially Armenian charities as he was very proud of his heritage. I place him up there with Alex Manoogian and Calouste Gulbenkian for all of their noble donations in a world where wealth accumulation is trumpeted more then helping, it seems. Through the course of writing these articles I have mentioned that I am Armenian, and through a gift from my Daughter I will soon write about my first Armenian wine. I am proud to say that there are many Armenians in many walks of life that have made the world a little better like William Saroyan, Aram Khachaturyan, Charles Aznavour, Eric Bogosian, Akim Tamiroff, Arlene Francis, Cher and Mike Connors. There are also some that I am not enamored with that will be nameless that I feel are only craven narcissists.
In a sense when one writes a Blog, one tends at times to feel like the old comedian/actor Morey Amsterdam who was called “The Human Joke Machine,” because if you gave him a word, he could come up with a joke using that word. Today, is one of those days, as I never had the fortune to meet Kirk Kerkorian, but one of my Uncles spent an evening with him, by accident and it was one of his favorite story that he like to relate. Wine is loosely woven into this article only through my story and not his. My Uncle through the years was a very adept business man and he also loved life. I remember years ago when I was a kid he brought over from Canada several double magnums of Brights President Canadian Champagne, because I believe he was celebrating opening up the first pizzeria in his city. Years later he had opened a themed burger shop with a drive-in, also a first in his city, and then after that he had opened up the finest Steak and Lobster house in the city. He worked hard and he partied hard. I remember on one of the occasions when I was having dinner at his restaurant, long after graduating from college, he gave me a beautiful lamp that he had made for the restaurant and since it was an extra one, he wanted me to take it. I am proud to say that the lamp illuminates my wine cellar, and one of the empty bottles of Champagne also decorates the cellar as well.
Now onto my story which is second hand and the language has been cleaned up for polite company, if you want you may reread the story yourself and think how it would sound if it was part of the dialogue from a Martin Scorsese crime drama. My Uncle enjoyed gambling and a couple of times a year he and his cronies would go to Las Vegas for a week, they would all ante up the same amount as my Uncle did, and he would have a major stake to play with, and they would all be “comped” for the entire stay, and my Uncle would gamble to his hearts delight. At the end of the trip, they all shared equally the winnings, or if it was a bad trip, they all had to equally add more money to compensate for a bad run of luck; and there was never any complaining, because it was understood up front. Caesars Palace had just opened up and all the guys were there having a great time. My Uncle was on a hot streak that night, when all of a sudden he heard his name being paged and he stopped, to find out what was going on, afraid that there might have been something terrible back home. He was directed over to a table where a man was sitting having a drink, and my Uncle announced to the man who he had never seen before, that he had been paged. The seated man said that he was not the man being paged, and my Uncle was so upset from being pulled from a hot streak, reached into his pocket and showed his identification, right after wards another man with the same name showed up at the table, who was expected. The seated man burst out laughing and introduced himself and it was Kirk Kerkorian and the three men ended up having dinner and drinks way into the morning hours. They just kept buying rounds and rounds of drinks, and as my Uncle used to say, it didn’t cost him a dime, because he was “comped” so it was easy to keep up with the other two. My Uncle always talked about what a great evening that was, and how this Multi-millionaire was just like any other guy. The men of that era are almost all gone now, but I am glad to say that I had a chance to bask in their aura when I was growing up.